Here’s an interesting question that one of the subscribers to this newsletter asked us recently…
This is one of the biggest challenges that many couples face and can the lines get fuzzy really quick on this one! Are friendships with people of the opposite sex appropriate if you are in a committed relationship?
Here are a few of our thoughts about this question…
Whether it’s a friendship with a co-worker, an ex-spouse, ex-lover, or even the woman or man at the gym or club–jealousy can rear its ugly head and threaten to destroy an otherwise “good” relationship when a friendship is felt to be inappropriate by one of the partners.
So, are friendships with people of the opposite sex appropriate while you are in a committed relationship or should you just say “no” and not even go there?
We’ll answer this question with a big– It depends!
It depends on two factors:
1. On the intentions of the two people who are creating the male/female friendship, and
2. On the spoken and unspoken agreements and commitments of the couple.
Let’s talk about intentions– We all have intentions, either conscious or unconscious, for everything we do and every relationship we are in.
When considering relationships with people of the opposite sex outside of a primary committed relationship, the questions to ask yourself are “What is my intention for this relationship?” and “What do I want from this relationship?”
Sometimes the answers to these questions can be difficult if we haven’t thought about them much (or at all).
What we have discovered is that whether we realize it or not, we ALWAYS want something or have either a conscious or unconscious intention for everything we do and this includes every relationship we get into.
Sometimes we get into relationships with people and don’t realize until some challenges surface in our primary committed relationship that this “friend” is fulfilling a want, need or desire that isn’t being filled in a primary relationship.
Please understand that we’re not saying that every want, need, and desire has to be fulfilled by your partner in a committed relationship.
What we are saying is to make sure that you are consciously aware of your intentions for your friendships and that these intentions are in alignment with your agreements and commitments to your partner.
We not only suggest that you be very clear about your own intentions for the friendship but also be aware of the intentions of your friend.
We frequently hear from people who are in a committed relationship and are jealous of a partner because they perceive that their partner’s friend, co-worker or ex-lover is “coming onto” them and wants more from the relationship with their partner than they are comfortable with.
When this situation happens, the fear is that the person’s partner will succumb to the allure of the other woman or man.
Whether this is actually fact or fiction, the point is to not bury your head in the sand and pretend that you aren’t aware of the other person’s intention.
If you look closely enough, you can usually figure out what that intention is and deal with it in a way that is best for all.
It’s also good to examine your intentions for your same-sex friendships. If your unspoken or spoken intention is to spend time away from home and away from your primary partner with someone else, take a look at what you are doing and the possible consequences of those actions.
Do a reality check and look at it as a wake-up call for your primary relationship.
How about agreements and commitments? Make sure that you are aware of what your spoken and unspoken agreements and commitments are around this topic of male/female friendships outside of your primary relationship.
This is usually not something that couples talk about until one or both have formed unhealthy friendships that threaten the primary relationship. We are urging you to talk about what each of your expectations are in this area and make your agreements and commitments in advance.
We like the term having friendships “within healthy limits and boundaries.” What this means to each person may differ and the challenge for each couple is to come to an agreement about what healthy limits and boundaries are for their relationships with other people.
We’ve found that if couples get bogged down in trying to come to an agreement about the definition of healthy limits and boundaries, if they begin listening to each other’s wants and desires and honoring what’s important to the other person, they are able to more easily come together on their ideas.
The point is to be very clear about how you want your relationship to be and how you want to be in your relationship. Ask yourself “Are my actions appropriate based on our agreements about how we want our relationship to be?”
One woman, who give us permission to use her story in our “No More Jealousy” book, told us that she had had a huge jealousy problem with every man she was ever with before her current husband. She said that one of the big differences in this relationship and previous ones is that she knows her husband is truly committed to her.
When she visits his office, her husband’s co-workers tell her that she is just as beautiful as he says she is. For her, jealousy is a non-issue in the face of that kind affirmation.
It’s not clear whether her husband is friends with his co-workers or not but what is clear is that he adores his wife, lets everyone know it and his intention in his committed relationship is very clear.
Whether friendships with the opposite sex are a problem in your relationship or not, take this opportunity to ask yourself these questions that may help to strengthen your relationship–
1. How do you honor your partner when you aren’t in their presence, no matter who you are with?
2. How are you nurturing your committed relationship? One final thing– Are we suggesting that it’s not OK to be in a friendship with someone of the opposite sex if you are in a committed relationship? Certainly not. We both have “friends” of the opposite sex and our relationship is stronger, more vibrant and more alive than ever.
We think friendships with all kinds of people are expanding and necessary to our personal growth and can also make our lives much more rewarding. We also think that these friendships can co-exist and thrive within the healthy limits and boundaries of our relationship.
Get our free 7 Jealousy-Stopping Secrets at www.nomorejealousy.com to help you overcoming jealousy and create a close and trusting relationship.